A car ferry to Russell


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The quaint town of Russell can be reached from Opua, just south of Paihia, by passenger ferry (several hours) or by vehicular ferry (several minutes); so we took the latter!  In most places, car parking is free although in Russell it was very hard to find somewhere to park as today it was full of holiday visitors. You can see above a car ferry with a Christmas tree on top; this was one of the view signs of Christmas we saw here.

At one time, Russell was known as the “Hell Hole of the Pacific” due to the unruly Europeans who settled there for the whaling trade. These whaling ships (see below) were tiny, so it is frightening to think what it mist have been like out on the high seas. After the signing of the Waitangi Treaty, Russell became the capital of New Zealand but this was soon changed to Auckland. Russell was the site of many skirmishes (hence the cannon) and was constantly irritated by the Maori leader Hone Heke who felled the flagstaff at least four times!

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As you walk along the foreshore, you will see many restaurants and bars and you might even pop into the local museum next to the whaling boat above. The museum has a one-fifth model of Captain Cook’s ship Endeavour, and as you travel around New Zealand, you will see how significant Cook was to this land. 

In the Russell Musum, you will be asked if you want a joint discounted ticket to the Pompallier Museum, and just say “Yes” and wander a little further along the shoreline to find it.


In 1841-42, Jean Baptiste Pompallier established a Roman Catholic mission in Russell which housed a printing press for the production of Maori-language religious texts. He arrived a little late as Church of England missionaries had got in first, so his conversion rate was not impressive. Nevertheless, he built a beautiful two-story house with an ‘English’ garden. Here you can see a working tannery, needed to supply the leather for binding the books, and you can see all the details of a working printing press and how the pages were finally sown together and bound.

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Russell is nowadays a holiday destination, and it has one policeman who lives in this lovely old church!

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After exploring a bit more, we drove for hours along the coastline to take us via Oakura and inland to Whakapara. Here is a photo of Taupiri Bay, but there were so many such beautiful bays to chose from here.

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« Day 4: Bay of Islands

Day 6: To Waipoua Forest and Katakana 


© Helen Gray 2019